US rapper Macklemore releases anthem for anti-Israel occupation at Columbia

In ‘Hind’s Hall,’ artist who has previously been accused of antisemitism lobs claims of ‘genocide’ and ‘apartheid’ at Israel, says ‘the Nakba never ended’; royalties to go to UNRWA

Macklemore performs during the South by Southwest Music Festival on March 17, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)
Macklemore performs during the South by Southwest Music Festival on March 17, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

JTA — One week after pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters who occupied a building at Columbia University were ejected and arrested, the rapper Macklemore has offered them an anthem.

The nearly three-minute track, released Monday, is called “Hind’s Hall,” after the name the protesters gave Hamilton Hall, the building they took over, in honor of a Palestinian girl who died in Gaza during the current Israel-Hamas war.

The song and accompanying video, which features clips from news broadcasts from Gaza and college campuses, has struck a chord, with more than 16 million views on Twitter alone as of Tuesday afternoon and hundreds of laudatory comments on Instagram.

The song praises the student protests and adopts their language and messages: Macklemore accuses Israel of “apartheid” and says its war against Hamas in Gaza amounts to “genocide”; defends the students’ call for divestment from Israel; and denies that the protests are antisemitic. He also suggests Israel is a white supremacist country, saying “white supremacy is finally on blast, screaming ‘Free Palestine’ ’til they’re home at last.”

The song says the war, started when the Hamas terror group launched a brutal onslaught in southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, is a continuation of the Nakba, the Palestinian term for the mass displacement that accompanied Israel’s War of Independence in 1948; it also acknowledges Jewish participation in the protests.

“We see the lies in them, claiming it’s antisemitic to be anti-Zionist,” the song says. “I seen Jewish brothers and sisters out there riding in solidarity and screaming ‘Free Palestine’ with them, organizing, unlearning and finally cutting ties with a state that’s gotta rely on an apartheid system to uphold an occupying violent history. Been repeating for the last 75 [years]. The Nakba never ended, the colonizer lied.”

Critics of the encampments — from US President Joe Biden to college presidents to Jewish students and leaders — have condemned instances of antisemitism at the protests and reports of Jewish students being harassed. Many of those critics, including Israeli officials, deny that Israel is committing genocide and dismiss the idea that Israel — much of whose population is made up of descendants of Holocaust victims and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa — is a white supremacist country.

The song includes a pledge not to vote for Biden in November’s presidential election over his support for Israel.

It also contains a reference to the very public feud between rappers Kendrick Lamar and Drake, who is Jewish. “I want a ceasefire, f— a response from Drake,” Macklemore raps. (Drake was among hundreds of performers to call for a ceasefire in late October; the song condemns others in the music industry for remaining silent.)

Macklemore, best known for his 2012 hit “Thrift Shop,” has rapped progressive causes several times, opposing Donald Trump and backing Black Lives Matter demonstrations. He has also spoken out in support of the Palestinians since October 7. Last year, he read a pro-Palestinian poem onstage that addressed his “Jewish brothers and sisters” and said “‘Free Palestine’ is also rooted in your protection.”

Macklemore, whose real name is Benjamin Haggerty, has also been accused of antisemitism: In 2014, he showed up at a performance wearing a bushy beard and wig, and a large fake hooked nose.

Following criticism, Macklemore denied antisemitic intent but acknowledged in a statement “how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature. I am here to say that it was absolutely not my intention, and unfortunately at the time I did not foresee the costume to be viewed in such regard. I truly apologize to anybody that I may have offended.”

Macklemore in the offensive outfit (YouTube screenshot)

Macklemore is a 2009 graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, which has a long history of anti-Israel activism and made a deal with protesters this month in which it pledged to look into divesting from Israel.

Macklemore said on social media that once the new track is uploaded to streaming platforms, any royalties he earns would be donated to UNRWA, the aid agency for Palestinians that has faced criticism and funding cuts over its staffers’ ties to the October 7 attack.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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